Last week when I talked to Mary Beth Shaw, she confessed that, inspired by the Alabama Chanin books, she’s started collecting clothing and fabric to alter. She laughed and said she was kind of wondering when it would stop being “collecting” and start being “hoarding.” I told her that when the bins and stacks and boxes were higher than her head, that’s when she should start worrying.
I should have had this advice to follow back when I first started my adventures in rubber stamping. Now, granted, my interest in all things stamping was legitimate because I was writing for Rubberstampmadness, so it counted as being work-related (I know: the justifications of an addict, right?), but things did get a little overwhelming, with thousands and thousands of rubber stamps that eventually took over what was supposed to be the office, covering dozens of shelves and filling every drawer I could find.
That was long ago, and looking back at it, I think I can see how the problem began. I was friends with a woman who’d gotten interested in stamping just after I did and who was able to indulge her every whim. A new line of stamps? She bought them all. New markers? She ordered every color. Cool new paper? Scissors? Rulers? Got ‘em. So no matter how many stamps I bought or was given, it never seemed excessive. I might have a lot, but I didn’t have as many as she did, so I was OK.
I think that’s what happens to a lot of us. We go to workshops and sit next to someone who has the full range of top-of-the-line paints. We visit blogs with photos of rooms full of fabric or paint or jewelry parts. We don’t have that much stuff, so not only are we OK with the I’m-not-a-hoarder-yet part, but, in fact: we need more!
It’s like hanging out with friends who eat way more junk than we do. Sure, I just ate half a dozen Oreos [disclaimer: not really], but I’ve been at my friend’s house when she went through an entire bag, so, hey: I’m OK. In fact, I can have a few more and still be OK. If you hang out with people with bigger habits than yours, you feel fine.
And it’s not just about having too much stuff or eating too much junk. Mary Beth also talked about looking at too much stuff: in books and magazines, on blogs and websites. If you spend all your time looking at what other people are doing, what does that do to what *you* should be doing? How can you ever get to your own work if you’re hip-deep in everyone else’s work?
In truth, I think we all know when we’ve had too much. When we’ve spent too much time online or stockpiled just the teeniest bit too much paper or eaten one too many packages of Slim Jims, we know it. The problem is those other people, our
enablers friends, the ones who are waist-deep in it and say, “Oh, come on, just a little more.” One more workshop, one more fancy tool, one more Twinkie.
Remember what else Mary Beth said? About how finding your voice–and your path–requires doing the work? Well, it’s hard to do the work when you’re hanging out at the craft store or sitting in front of your boards on Pinterest, just like it’s tough to do the work when you’ve got both hands covered in chocolate and your eyes glued to YouTube.
We’ve got to know when to say enough is enough, and the only way to do that is to ignore what everyone else is doing and listen to our instincts. When it’s time to stop, we’ve got to put everything down and head to the studio, no matter how much we’re tempted to keep popping M&Ms and clicking on “add to cart.” Other people are fabulous sources of inspiration, but what works for them isn’t what’s going to work best for us. Finding that out–what works for us–is the tough part. Doing the work that results is the reward.
Ricë also blogs at The Voodoo Cafe.
MORE RESOURCES FOR MIXED MEDIA ARTISTS